Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history

Girl in Blue

Watercolour. Purchased 2012 with assistance from The Art Fund, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of Penlee House.

Henry Meynell Rheam

1859 - 1920

According to Stanhope Forbes, Rheam was originally recruited to Newlyn for his cricketing skills.  For a brief period, he also contributed greatly to the Newlyn School's artistic output, producing fine watercolours such as 'Girl in Blue', before moving on to work in a more romantic, late-Pre-Raphaelite style.

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Biography

Henry Meynell Rheam - 1859 - 1920

Born on Merseyside at Birkenhead on 13 January 1859, Rheam studied in Germany, in London at Heatherly's, and in Paris at Julian's Atelier, working primarily in watercolour.  A staunch Quaker and first cousin of Henry Scott Tuke, Rheam first settled in Polperro but moved to Newlyn in 1890, perhaps having visited before that date.  Stanhope Forbes ascribed this move not to art but to sport:

'The annual cricket match between the artists of St Ives and Newlyn was one of the chief sporting events of the year and about the time I speak of, St Ives had acquired two notable batsmen and Newlyn seemed likely to endure defeat.  But in a fortunate moment, the situation was saved, for Harry Rheam, that notable cricketer, was imported at great expense from Polperro.  He remained with us ever after and we had reason to remember gratefully the rivalry between the two colonies in the noble game.

By the 1891 Census, he was living at St Peters, Newlyn (aged 32 years) as a boarder, with Samuel Green Enderby boarding in the same house.  Rheam was to settle permanently in Newlyn and from 1897 was the Hon Secretary/Curator of the Newlyn Society of Artists, a post he continued loyally in for over 20 years, until his death on 14 November 1920.  Meanwhile, in 1900, he married Alice Elliott and the couple lived at Boase Castle Lodge, Belle Vue, Newlyn, later moving to West Lodge in Alverton, Penzance, in about 1914, where he lived out his remaining years.

The majority of Rheam's paintings were in a romantic, late Pre-Raphaelite style, but his earliest works in Newlyn conformed more closely to the rural realist ethos associated with the Newlyn School, the most notable example being 'Girl in Blue', executed in 1891.  By the mid 1890s, he had turned exclusively to illustrative romantic subjects and at the Opening Exhibition of Newlyn Art Gallery in 1895, a reviewer commented, "Among the watercolour men who choose figure subjects Mr Rheam is conspicuous; his Belle dame sans merci, which was sold, is as complete a realisation of the heroine of Keat's poem as any artist is ever like to give us."  

 
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